Former Arkansas State Senator Stanley Russ of Conway departed this life on Thursday, January 5, 2017, three weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was preceded in death by his parents, O.S. and Gene Russ; a sister, Laura Alice Benignus; and the love of his life, Nina Ruth Benton Russ, his sweetheart and wife for 55 years. He is survived by one daughter, Debbie Merritt (Jim) of Conway; a son, Stan Russ (Tami) of Little Rock; five grandchildren, Anna Ruth Merritt, Russ Merritt (Rachael), Libby Harrington (Ben), Kaitlin Russ and Molly Russ; two great-grandchildren, Aiden Merritt and Silas Merritt; one sister, Joann Austin of St. Louis, Missouri; special friend, Nina McGehee; and a host of other family and friends.
Stanley Russ was born on August 31, 1930, in Conway to O.S. Russ and Gene Browne Russ. He was the youngest of three children and attended the Training School on the campus of Arkansas State Teachers College-now the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) from the first grade through the seventh grade. In the eighth grade, he transferred to Conway Public Schools and graduated in 1948. He attended college at Arkansas Tech University from 1948 to 1950 before transferring to the University of Central Arkansas. He then transferred to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where he graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree with a major in agriculture.
Stanley served in the U.S. Army from July 1952 until July 1954. He completed Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, and as a second lieutenant was an instructor of artillery. He was discharged with the rank of first lieutenant and was then named company commander in the Arkansas National Guard in Morrilton (Conway County). He remained in the Arkansas National Guard until September 1961, and in 1995, he was inducted into the U.S. Field Artillery OCS Hall of Fame at Fort Sill.
After leaving the Arkansas National Guard, he went to work in the life insurance business (and remained in the business throughout his time in the Arkansas Senate). Stanley is best known for having served for 26 years in the Arkansas State Senate. Senator Russ served from 1975 through the year 2000. Much of his legislative action was in support of public, private, and higher education.
Stanley was always available to his constituents and cared deeply for the area he represented, especially Faulkner County. He was a true friend of agriculture and was proud of his efforts to assist 4-H clubs throughout Arkansas. From 1977 to 1996, Senator Russ, along with Senators Joe Ray and Gene Rainwater, worked to obtain over $4 million to fund the Arkansas 4-H center.
When he was a senior in Conway High School, he was elected state president of the Future Farmers of America. While serving in the State Senate he worked to secure funding for 4-H building improvements and 4-H programs, as well as serving on the board of the Arkansas 4-H Foundation. To recognize the work and commitment of Senator Russ and that of Senator Rainwater to Arkansas 4-H, there is a lodging hall named in their honor at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center, Russ-Rainwater Hall.
The list of his accomplishments, awards he received and the committees on which he served and was serving is lengthy, but several are especially worthy of mention. He was president pro tempore of the Arkansas Senate from 1995 to 1997, and served as governor on several occasions when both the governor and lieutenant governor were out of state at the same time. On one of those occasions, in November 1996, Russ created the Medal of Honor Commission that built the Medal of Honor Memorial on the Arkansas State Capitol grounds.
In 1981 he was named one of the Ten Outstanding State Legislators in the United States by the Assembly of State Government Employees. In 1985, he was honored by the Municipal League of Arkansas for Distinguished Service, and in 1986, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Conway Chamber of Commerce.
He was elected into the Arkansas Tech University Hall of Distinction in 1994 and the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2000. Russ was named, along with James Bridges, the 2012 University of Central Arkansas Distinguished Alumni. In 2001, the building that houses the UCA Department of Mass Communication was named Stanley Russ Hall in his honor. In February 2004, Russ was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from UCA.
After he retired from politics, Stanley continued to serve the public, in his own way by helping to keep Faulkner County clean; he was regularly seen picking up litter around town in Conway.
In his words, "he was greatly blessed, highly favored, imperfect, but a forgiven child of the King."
Visitation will be Monday, January 9, 2017, 12noon-1:00PM, at Central Baptist Church on Dave Ward Drive in Conway. A funeral service will follow at 1:00PM with Don Chandler, Lou Hardin and Larry Pillow officiating. Interment will follow in Oak Grove Cemetery in Conway under the direction of Roller-McNutt Funeral Home of Conway.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be given to the
and/or keep his legacy of giving by picking up litter in your community and being a good steward of what we have been given.
Online guestbook: www.rollerfuneralhomes.com/conway
Roller-McNutt Funeral Home
801 8Th Ave
Conway, AR 72032
Published in The Log Cabin Democrat on Jan. 8, 2017